Tag Archives: children

The emptiness of Father’s Day

18 Jun

Its Father’s Day here in the UK today. All day long my social media feed has filled with messages from doting children talking about how great their fathers are, or how much they miss their dead dads. Friends and relatives closer to my age are celebrating recent births and there’s hardly a bad word to be spoken.

My own relationship with my father is frequently fraught, long-time readers know this already. But it is my own status that leaves me a little torn up as each father’s day passes.

I’m not a father. I haven’t passed on my genes into a miniature person. I’m still very much alone in the world, and while that’s mostly okay, its also a little sad. I’ve been a stepfather, I am a godparent, I am an uncle. But it isn’t the same. Every father’s day I find myself dwelling on the children I didn’t have. Not the decision to not reproduce, but a series of miscarriages between me and partners. I’ve talked very little about this publicly over the years out of a desire to protect myself, and the other people involved. Not all the incidents as it turns out were pregnancies at all, and that has left its own mental scars. But at least one seems to have been an actual foetus that terminated its journey. I’m still reeling from that if I’m honest.

We talk so much (and rightly) about women’s experiences with miscarriages – they are the nurturing vessel that protects the developing child, and the ones with the most intimate bond. But we too often forget that fathers-to-be have a place in the stories too. The knowledge that we created a life that came and went too quick, is overpowering. I wept, wandered confused, completely stricken by the events that unfolded for me. Looking to confide and talk to a partner that was also trying to deal with the situation in her own way. I still wonder what might have come of the relationship and that family unit had events not overtook us. I wonder was that my last chance at bringing a life into the world with someone I actually trusted and cared for, and knew would be a good mother. It wasn’t in the life plan at that stage for either of us, but I am sure we would have made it work.

The only way to keep going seems to be to push it to one side. To bury the feelings that a conversation about it encourages. I’ve had to write off biological fatherhood in my head, as something that simply isn’t for me. The reality is, that after being lied to, to then go through the whole process again with someone who was being open and sincere, I’m not sure I could cope again. One day I guess I’ll have that conversation with the person I need to.

So Father’s Day – the day that reminds me that I’ve failed at being a dad. Meh.

 

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My Future Family?

21 Sep
Baby on Scales - image from Flickr commons

Baby on Scales – image from Flickr commons

I’ve been thinking about kids again recently – probably due to the recent arrival of my niece. I now have one of each – a niece and a nephew, and with that there is a strange sort of completion in the family unit.

I’m fast approaching my mid-30s, and the eldest of the family, and yet its my younger siblings who are responsible for the next generation. Life of course doesn’t follow strict rules of chronology. This first born son of a first born son of a first born son has no offspring of his own. And finding myself resolutely single, I’m quite content with that fact.

There was a time, perhaps, in my teenage years, where I assumed the thing to do would be to settle down, marry and have kids, just like my parents did, and all before I reached 25. But as time grew on, real life interactions bring about a rethink.

I wouldn’t even blame it on bad relationships, because while not meeting the right person to have a family with is no doubt part of it (or not the right person at the right time), other things – education, work etc. – also play a part.

I’m sure many of us looking to our next event birthday as 40 (still some way off thank goodness, but a scary prospect all the same) begin to panic about a seeming lack of direction. No steady job, excessive debt, no partner, no children, no hope?! And as friends start to pair off, settle down, buy houses and have families one begins to feel left out. On the shelf. Alone.

Curiously while most of my male friends and relatives have settled down, I have acquired a select few female friends who find themselves in a similar boat to me. They’re all in their early to mid 30s, unattached, and unburdened. It is reassuring for the moment, at least until they too start to find new partners and families (yes, I’m assuming they’ll do it before me) and then like my male friends, we end up speaking maybe twice a year – at children’s birthday parties which I’m tokenistically invited to, only to feel awkward in the corner.

Do I sound prematurely jealous? Perhaps. Somewhat selfishly I appreciate being part of a wee club – bucking the tribal trends that dictate our domestic existence. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t aspects which I can appreciate and to some extent aspire towards. There remains a misconception in our society that children equals happiness. While I have no doubt for some individuals that is the case, I’ve witnessed too many couples for whom children have aggravated relationship sores, leaving wounds open to further infection.

Being a man I’m aware that I have considerably longer than women (in theory) in which to reproduce – providing of course I can find a suitable female willing to take on the task with me. But as I get older, finding a suitable other will prove more difficult. With the advances in our technology I’m assuming children are an option for me at least for another decade, after which I’ll be on the way to 50 and less willing to take on such a task.

In the meantime I can rebuild my life after the mistakes and emotional turmoil of the last few years, and maybe even do some of the things I’d always talked about doing. If somewhere along the way I find myself acquiring a girlfriend then I might consider settling down and building a family, but it isn’t a priority.

As the family genealogist I’m very aware of the various genetic lines and the constant cycle of reproduction that is human existence; that position also leaves me feeling slightly guilty that my own branch of the family tree looks set (at present) to come to a stop. Is that an ironic state of affairs?

My life would have been very different if I’d had children by now I’m sure – I look at my siblings and friends with some slight envy as they embrace parenthood and bring up their own tiny terrors. I sit down and I play with their kids, feed them, put them to bed and chill, and a little part of me is in awe at their existence. But I don’t envy the responsibility, the commitment, the unending protectiveness. I can’t see that it would have been a viable option for me in the past, and as far as I am able to control it I refuse to reproduce simply for the sake of it.

That is of course the real risk as we get older. The body clock starts ticking, and as we find ourselves in a shrinking minority we panic. We make ourselves parents through some brief encounter that fizzles out either just before or soon after the birth, satisfying the ‘family’ need in a lacklustre manner. Or we make the decision and settle down in a mundane relationship with a partner we sort of care about a bit, but would rather not have bothered with. We form families because we feel we have to.

Maybe that’ll be me in ten years. Tired of being alone I find someone in a similar situation and we make a pact to end our respective solitude and form a relationship – warm but not sizzling – and build a safe family. When all is said and done, that does sound slightly more appealing than spending the rest of my days in isolation.